Finland opened a diplomatic Liaison Office in Minsk, the capital of Belarus on October 1st, 2010. Administratively under the Embassy of Finland in Vilnius, the one-diplomat Office is run by Minister Counsellor Ilkka Räisänen. The Ambassador of Finland to Lithuania is accredited also to Belarus.
By opening a Liaison Office in Belarus, Finland strengthened the country’s presence in its neighbouring area. In the past few years, Eastern Europe and Central Asia have risen to the fore in European Union policy. The Union strives to influence political and economic development in neighbouring areas, for instance through the Eastern Partnership under the European Neighbourhood Policy.
The European Union has proceeded a policy of dialogue and conditional cooperation with Belarus to accelerate political reform with a view to promoting democracy and strengthening human rights in the country. Together with other EU countries present in Minsk, Finland strives to monitor and influence the situation by a local Diplomatic Office. Finland’s presence in Belarus enables more effective exertion of influence with regard to multilateral and bilateral issues, as well as enabling more accurate follow-up and reporting.
The developing and integrating markets of Eastern Europe and Central Asia offer Finnish companies a good deal of opportunity for trade. At the same time, Finnish expertise in such sectors as energy and environment technology interests Belarusian companies. There is considerable interest in Belarusian markets, and promotion of trade and helping Finnish companies gain access to Belarusian markets is one of the central tasks of the Liaison Office.
Alongside economic cooperation and political relations, Eastern Europe is also important with regard to development cooperation. The Embassy of Finland in Vilnius and the Liaison Office in Minsk contribute to implementation of Finland’s new development cooperation action plan, the Wider Europe Initiative, in Eastern Europe.
The regional programmes for Eastern Europe including Belarus, focus among others on energy and environmental cooperation and security as well as on trade and development. For instance, in the environmental sector Finland works together with the Belarusian environment authorities to reduce the country’s nutrient emissions from major rivers to the Baltic Sea.
The Liaison Office of Finland operates in the premises of the Swedish Embassy in Minsk on a simple one-diplomat model. That is why it does not provide services to travelers. Consular and passport services are provided by the Embassy of Finland in Vilnius. The Finnish Schengen visas are provided by the Estonian Embassy in Minsk. The residence permit application may be submitted at the Finnish embassy in Moscow.
Schengen visas: Estonian Embassy in Minsk
Residence permits: Finnish Embassy in Moscow